What literary devices are used in "The Soldier" by Rupert Brooke?

In "The Soldier," Rupert Brooke uses a variety of literary devices, such as a formal sonnet structure of fourteen lines, the rhyme scheme of a traditional sonnet, and repetition of the words "England" and "English" to underscore the patriotic focus of the poem.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In “The Solider,” Rupert Brooke uses alliteration, the repetition of identical initial consonant sounds close together, to drive home the profound love he feels for his homeland.

To see an illustration of this, we need look no further than the first three lines of the poem:

If I should...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In “The Solider,” Rupert Brooke uses alliteration, the repetition of identical initial consonant sounds close together, to drive home the profound love he feels for his homeland.

To see an illustration of this, we need look no further than the first three lines of the poem:

If I should die, think only this of me:

That there's some corner of a foreign field

That is forever England... (Emphasis added).

The repetition of the consonant “f” indicates how important these lines are to the poet and what they represent. An intensely patriotic poem, “The Soldier” is all about love of one's country, and the speaker expresses the conviction that, wherever he dies, even if it's in some remote corner of a foreign field, it will be a part of the England that he loves so dearly.

Further alliteration comes at the end of the first stanza, this time involving the repetition of the “b” consonant:

A body of England's, breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

Once again, a patriotic point is being made. The speaker belongs to the nation; he has been formed and shaped by England to be the man that he is. As with any patriot, he puts his country before himself, emphasizing the degree to which the nation enjoys preeminence over any one individual.

Such an attitude was all too common among those who went to war in 1914. The general consensus was that fighting and dying for one's country was a noble enterprise and that the interests of the nation took precedence over those of the individual.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier" makes use of a number of literary devices in order to convey meaning. This poem is usually read straightforwardly as an expression of patriotism, but Brooke originally titled it "The Recruit," and read under this title, it could readily be interpreted as an ironic comment on the promise of glory sold to young men who would then never come "home."

In either reading, the choice of a formal sonnet structure, with fourteen lines and a traditional rhyme scheme, supports the meaning. If the poem is straightforward, then the structure hearkens back to great figures of English culture, such as Shakespeare, and suggests an adherence to tradition. If it is ironic, then this structure is ironic for the same reasons.

Other literary devices Brooke uses in the poem include repetition of the words "England" and "English." We can find this repetition throughout the poem; Brooke emphasizes the fact that however "foreign" the field is in which the soldier is eventually "concealed," the soldier himself will remain a piece of England. In this sense, too, the soldier himself is a symbol; his body is not really a part of England, but symbolically and metaphorically, he represents England, even when he is far away.

We also find a good deal of alliteration on "the" throughout the poem, such as with "think," "that," there's," and "thoughts." This creates a sense of cohesiveness in terms of the poem's sound.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Brooke uses a number of literary devices in this poem. The first is his choice of a formal structure. This is a sonnet. Once readers recognize this, they can expect a number of other literary devices or specific details to be found in the poem. Standard sonnets have 14 lines, as this poem does. There are a few standard variations on sonnet structure.  One variation is the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. In this form, the first eight lines form one unit (the "octave" or "octet") and the final six lines form a second unit (the "sextet"). So, before you look further, look at this larger structure, and the relationship between these two parts.

After that, look for a regular rhyme scheme ("me" rhymes with "be," "field" with "concealed," and so on): ABABCDCD, etc. There is a regular rhythm. The lines are a specific length: ten syllables, usually in iambic pentameter.

Once you move past structure, there are other devices used. Brooke repeats words within lines ("rich"/"richer") or within the poem ("England"). He personifies the world ("blest by suns of home"). There is imagery throughout.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This intensely patriotic poem uses alliteration extensively to communicate the smooth-sounding rhythm and flowing verse that helps focus the reader on the image of a soldier setting out to possibly die but focusing on the way that his death would make a corner of the battlefield "for ever England" through his death. Note the following example of alliteration:

A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

The repetition of the "b" sound in these lines adds a sonorous tone to the sonnet as a whole, which is also emphasised through the alliteration of other sounds such as "s," "r," "d," "l" and "h." This, combined with the repetition of "England" and "English" places an emphasis on the theme of patriotism in the poem. Such devices show the extent to which this sonnet is a highly crafted set of iambic pentameters with a smooth, flowing rhythm. The almost paradisical images of England conjures up pictures of a beautiful countryside that ignores the urban reality of so much of Britain and perhaps stand in contrast to the mechanical nightmare that was captured in World War I through the use of technologically sophisticated machinery such as machine guns and barbed wire, which resulted in so much death. It represents a retreated to a deliberately more simple existence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team